Thoughts on Analog Photography

I still remember the times during my studies of media technology when I dreamed of someday owning a Leica camera. Although I was happy with the Nikon F2 SLR and Nikon 24mm f/2.8 setup I used during the photography classes I took at university, I kept longing for more. A close friend and I spent many nights debating used camera options available at local Leica dealers but always decided to stay away from it. To be completely honest, we dreamed mostly about rangefinder photography and the M System, but this felt out of reach (for reference: at this time the first digital M, the Leica M8 was about to be introduced). So we focussed on what we could realistically acquire on a student budget. At the time, it was a Leica R8 and we didn’t buy one.

Leica R8 - the quintessence of photography

This was about 15 years ago. One reason has been the price (at the time Leica still sold the Leica R9 as their current SLR model). Of course Leica has always been expensive and also remains pricy with age of the equipment. So we could have seen it as an investment all things considered. Another issue to stay away from the Leica R8 was the uprising of DSLR models from Nikon and Canon with half decent full size sensors at more competitive prices.

Leica never entered the DSLR market with the R series and subsequently discontinued its analog R9 SLR line on March 9, 2009. It’s digital medium format options with the S system remained unattractive, even as a used camera. To be fair, Leica introduced a digital module for the Leica R8 and R9 called DMR, making the R system the only hybrid analog digital SLR system that ever existed. However, it was and still is extremely expensive and provides a somewhat outdated resolution of 10 megapixels with a CCD sensor. Still, it was an absolutely amazing piece of technology. Check out this brochure, if you are interested.


To And From Digital Photography

I never owned a DSLR. Despite Nikon’s and Canon’s achievements, their newer cameras never spoke to me, mostly for reasons such as crop sensors or build size. The analog Nikon F2 is tiny compared to all DSLR models I have ever considered. For many years I chose mirror-less digital cameras with MFT (micro four thirds) lenses for their more compact size. All of them lacked an optical viewfinder. I never liked electronic viewfinders (EVF), although they are technically very decent these days. So I suffered through years of taking photos while looking at a screen rather than through a viewfinder. Still, I was quite happy with various Panasonic cameras and the lenses they developed in partnership with Leica. With iPhones getting better and better cameras however, more often than not I only used the phone’s camera. Long gone are the times where I would carry around heavy or bulky equipment. For some years now, I only used my iPhone for taking photos.

new year 2018 in Napoli
Happy New Year in Napoli – 2018

Nevertheless, the idea of Leica’s simplistic approach and upmost build quality made in Germany persisted in my mind over the years. Fascinated by romantic illusions about street photography, I always appreciated how Leica managed to keep their heritage alive. With some experiments in Leica’s digital realm (owning a Leica M8 for some time, selling it because of the crop sensor size), the appeal of Leica’s analog cameras has never seized to fascinate me. So out of coincidence, I opted for a used Leica R8 with two lenses that I found in a local classifieds ad. It was a split second decision during a one day stopover in Hamburg. The lenses are a Leitz Elmarit 35mm f/2.8 and a Leitz Vario-Elmar-R 70-210mm f/4.0 (rather a free add-on than a conscious choice for lens).

Ever since then I did nothing much with my Leica R8 kit. Several things changed since my last thorough reflection on choosing analog equipment in the digital age. So an orientational journey was in order, especially since I live in Napoli, Italy, and things are quite different here.


Why analog film?

At various times before, I considered going back to analog. It would provide a more conscious and more immersive photography experience, not speaking of the amazing and unique look of analog film. At least, that’s what I believe most of the time. It requires focus and deliberation as each shot costs money and it can only be reviewed at a later time. An analog camera also demands a more thorough understanding of photography principles such as composition and lighting (ISO, exposure and aperture). It makes the process of taking photos much slower. This is a good thing in my opinion. It helps with composition, anticipation and creating an specific look or feel. To some degree it is a highly reflective activity.

lighting a cigarette
Nikon F2 – Nikon 24mm f/2.8 – Ilford Delta 3200 professional 35mm film – 2007

The possibilities of digital image processing are nearly limitless these days. It also allocates an enormous amount of the creative process to postproduction. With ever growing libraries of snapshots taken, I would prefer less post production and a larger number of consciously composed photos. Also, as my photography professor at the university always pointed out, analog film as a technology only reached its perfection long after digital cameras became mainstream. In fact, from a technical perspective, film still remains to be very competitive (if not even superior in some areas), but lets not get into that discussion at this point.


35mm analog film in the digital age

As it turned out, the analog film market is somewhat thriving in 2018, which is certainly different from the last time I looked. I witnessed the rebirth of 8mm film and instant film photography with The Impossible Project (now Polaroid Originals). But apparently I missed recent developments for the 35mm analog film.

Companies such as Kodak, Rollei and Ferrania have in fact announced or introduced NEW film material in 2017. Also, there are more in the making with various kickstarter projects and independent movements to strengten the analog photography scene. I appreciate initiatives such as Camera Ventures efforts to get more people into the game with their Five Steps on Getting into Analog Cameras. Also many “modern” professionals are switching back to analog. So things don’t look as grim as they used to for analog photography. I almost feel confident it might actually survive long term. So my Leica R8 might prove to be a long term investment after all.

Most interesting film choices for me at this moment are Ilford Delta or Kodak Tri-X for black and white photos and Kodak Porta or Ektar for color. Of course I would like to try Kodak Ektachrome, which is ready for shipment as of Photokina in September 2018 after more than 6 six years since its extinction. Despite the first films that were shipped in Agust 2018 still being beta material, I am super excited and can’t wait to try it out for myself. In my opinion, Fuji has somewhat lost his edge, so their film material is no longer interesting to me. I would be interested in trying some Lomography material as well, but I remain sceptic at this time.


Practical issues

Many people state that analog photography comes at costs of around 50 Cents per shot. This sounds much more reasonable then a few years ago. Still, these days it might be more difficult to find a shop to actually develop the film. Ten years ago, many drugstores still offered these services with acceptable quality (at least in Germany). Nowadays, good service providers are rare at best, especially in South Italy.

You could always opt to develop the films yourself. It would provide much more creative leeway and could possibly lower costs even more. Still, it requires time and a dedicated room and is less convenient for lifestyles involving lots of travel. For a digital nomad, it is certainly not an option. Ideally, a service provider would offer development and digitisation of the film material with post and digital delivery. These requirements are not so easy to meet.


Service Providers in Germany

As I once did with 8mm service providers, I took a look at various offers in Germany, such as BestfotoserviceCyberlab.atFotofachlabor Roland WackerFotoimpexFoto LeutnerFoto Media PrintFoto Meyer, Foto WeckbrodtJan Kopp, Mein Film Lab, Nimm FilmPhoto Studio 13, Pixelnet and some others. I knew Jan Kopp in Hamburg from previous experience and can highly recommend the offered services. However, the services are not compatible in remote setup as it requires a personal on site presence in my opinion. Pixelnet is offering film development at 2,75 € per film with additional costs of 7,44 € for scans on a CD and 2,59 € for postal delivery within Germany. This sounds reasonable but still feels not very convenient.  The scan resolution is not specified and many people don’t use optical discs anymore.

The only convincing service provider I found, was Mein Film Lab. They offer development and scanning services at various resolutions. Prices range from 10,93 € for 2430 x 2550 pixels to 16,81 € for 4500 x 6600 pixels. The services are outlined perfectly, they are transparent and offer any additional service I might require AND they deliver scans as downloads. With 36 frames on a 35mm film, prices would range between 30 Cents and 46 Cents per shot plus the cost of the film. This sounds good to me.

I am sure there are other firms who do this as well and I am not claiming this is a complete list. In the many hours I spent researching this however, I could only find so many. More importantly for me personally, I am still struggling to find an easy solution for me while I am in Napoli, Italy. Although many digital services that are very common in Germany are still not available in South Italy, analog film has apparently already disappeared from drug stores or any other type of shop entirely. Only very few photo shops offer development of the film and it takes about a week. So far, I was unable to find a suitable one-stop-shop solution to develop and digitize films I shot with Leica R8.

Leica R8
Leica R8

Scanning 35mm film

This kind of leads me back to angles I explored years ago, develop films at a photo service shop and scan them myself. Unfortunately, the advancements over the pas few years in the negative scanner market are moderate at best. Although very cheap solutions are now available, they offer very poor quality and low res JPG scans only. In the pro market, nothing changed really with the outdated and discontinued Scanners of previous industry giants like Nikon or Minolta still ranking top among the usual suspects such as Pacific Image or Plustek. Check out B&H Photo’s conclusive buyers guide, it’s the most complete and considerate summary I could find. This still means that below an investment of at least 500€ for a half decent negative scanner, there is not much to expect. Since I already scanned the entire family library of 35mm film during university, I don’t really see the justification for such an investment. More importantly, these solutions are not really portable and thereby disqualified for a nomadic lifestyle.


Final Thoughts

I am determined to try analog photography once again. With the recently acquired Leica R8 I have a timeless setup that provides all I could desire from a SLR. Still, I am already sure that my long-term destination will remain rangefinder photography. Despite my shared and also eternal appreciation of the Leica M system, it just makes sense for me. Rangefinder cameras of all vendors are small, light, low key and allow me to see the scene rather than the shot I am about to take. As an aficionado of urban narratives, it seems to be the tool of choice for me. Maybe you should read this brilliant article about yesterdays Leica cameras to appreciate what I am talking about.

If you want to get started with manual street photography (digital or analog), consider this introduction with useful tips by Eric Kim. It touches the most important aspects in my opinion. If you can’t afford a new or used Leica and always dreamed of trying one, you can apply at verleica.de and pitch your project to borrow a Leica M9 for a limited time. The site is operated by the infamous German photographer Paul Ripke, and I recommend checking it out. It might even lead to exposure of your work that you didn’t expect.

CSTI – Creative Space for Technical Innovations at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences

The CSTI – Creative Space for Technical Innovations is an interdisciplinary platform for research and knowledge transfer in areas such as human-computer-interaction (HCI) or smart systems at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. The lab is part of the Computer Science department and collaborates with areas such as mechatronics, design, art, social and culture studies. It takes part in a network of other facilities at Hamburg universities, e.g. base.camp at Hamburg University, TUHH Lab at Hamburg University of Technology and the City Science Lab at HafenCity University Hamburg (HCU) in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab.

 

CSTI logo

 

The main goal of the lab is to provide a workspace for development of innovative ideas and agile prototyping in collaboration with small and medium sized enterprises (SME). The main fields of research are virtual reality / augmented reality, smart objects / user interface, machine learning / data mining or science and technology studies. Furthermore the lab focusses on design methods and reflective discussion of “digital transformation” phenomena. The CSTI Academy offers workshops, hackathons, keynotes and seminars with a special focus on STEM promotion (MINT in German) and education among others.


Design Fiction

In 2016 I collaborated with Jessica Broscheit and Hannes Sieg on a design fiction prototype that is associated to the CSTI lab. The Air Mask was developed to measure environmental data in realtime in context of open data paradigms, decentralised data mining and data driven narratives. I have written about the project before. Jessica ist now part of the CSTI team as a research associate and furthers her work in speculative design. One of her latest smart object projects is called Ivory and again deals with environmental data and tangible interfaces.


Digital Transformation Phenomena

As a reflective contention of digital transformation, my current PhD project about entrepreneurial ecosystems, public policy agendas and sociotechnical imaginaries is also associated with the CSTI lab. The study is done in collaboration with the University of West Scotland (UWS) School of Business & Enterprise and builds on previous entrepreneurship policy research done at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and University of New South Wales (UNSW) Business School in Sydney, Australia.

10th App Store Anniversary – Apple’s App Economy

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on January 9, 2007 at Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, no one was expecting the revolutionary effect it would have on most of our lives. Most important component of the Apple led smartphone revolution is undoubtedly the App Store that was introduced in parallel to the iPhone 3G, the second generation iPhone.

When it was opened on July 10 2008, exactly 10 years ago today, it started out with just 500 apps. Unimaginable today, it started very small and yet it was a very inspiring backdrop and integral part of my professional life over the last 10 years.

WWDC 2009 - Apps Wall
WWDC 2009 – Apps Wall

Just one year later at WWDC 2009 more than 50,000 apps were available. At the conference Apple put up a wall of 30″ Cinema Displays (arguably one of the most amazing monitors ever build) and created a wall of apps, showing off all apps that were currently on the app store. As I joined the platform almost instantly after becoming available to developers in Germany, I was happy to see some of my apps on the wall (circled in red in the photo).

Over the years I published 100+ apps, both as a individual developer or as a responsible manager while working in advertising and publishing. With applications ranging from promotional marketing apps, utilities, news and upscale magazine products to travel guides, social networking apps as well as environmental citizen science projects and educational games, I gathered in-depth insights into the app store economy over the course of the last decade.


Growing into an App Economy

Things have come a long way since the first 500 apps on the store. On the first weekend alone, Apple registered 10 million app downloads. Just 2 months later Apple reported 3,000 apps being available on the store and having surpassed 100 million app downloads, the billionth app download was reported on April 24, 2009. So basically, from the very beginning it was clear that this ecosystem was going to be huge.

By opening the iOS platform to third party developers and also lowering the barrier to entry substantially for new developers, Apple paved the way for an incredibly engine of growth. In June 2018 news outlets reported revenues of more than $ 1 billion over the last decade for German developers alone. After ten years and a substantial clean up of unmaintained apps in 2017, the App Store had more than 2,1 million iOS apps in March 2018, and reported a unbelievable record revenue of $ 300 million in purchases on New Year’s Day 2018 alone as well as a total revenue over $ 26.5 billion for developers in 2017.

Number of apps available on App Store from 2008 - 2017
Number of apps available on App Store from 2008 – 2017 – Source: Statista

To put this in perspective, the App Store belongs to Apple’s service business, which is among the fastest growing segments of revenue for Apple. While it might seem tiny compared to the iPhone category, it is larger than the iPad business and the “other” category which consists of Apple TV, Apple Watch and Beats. Despite indications that the App Store growth might be stagnating or trends are moving away from apps towards smart speakers etc., it is pretty clear that Apple has created not only an amazing ecosystem that includes the iPad, Apple TV and the Apple Watch, it is a very vibrant and apparently highly profitable industry to be in.

The industry demand for skilled iOS developers is high as ever and is substantiated by Apple’s initiatives in tertiary education, providing Swift and mobile application development training at universities all over the world with its Everyone Can Code Initiative. Additionally Apple is also operating a dedicated Apple Developer Academy in collaboration with University Federico II in Naples, Italy and offers a 1 year program to both undergraduate and post graduate profiles.


So, what’s next?

At the recent World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC 2018) Apple announced iOS 12 with overall performance improvements and new features such as group FaceTime, Memojis, ARKit 2, Siri shortcuts as well as a new design of Notification Center and new privacy settings. Among the many new things, I especially appreciate Screen Time, a new feature allowing users to track and better understand their iPhone usage. As discussed before, I am convinced that spending less time or at least more conscious time glued to a screen would be highly beneficial.

Among the many other things that I found interesting on a more technical level, I most appreciate Create ML for Core ML 2, a simple to use tool chain to create and train machine learning models on the Mac using Swift and Xcode. Having worked with Core ML on previous projects, I am looking forward to experimenting with it. Also the Wall of Apps during the WWDC keynote was pretty impressive and surely evolved from the 2009 edition.

WWDC 2018 Apps Wall
WWDC 2018 Apps Wall

After 10 years the iOS platform is striving more than ever within its ecosystem of MacOS, WatchOS and tvOS. With more options for cross-platform application development coming in 2019, developers will be able to offer their apps on both desktop and mobile platforms much more easily. Apple categorically denied rumours to integrate macOS and iOS for obvious reasons and instead announced plans to integrate iOS’s UIKit framework into macOS in addition to the existing AppKit framework used on the Mac. The system apps News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home debut in macOS Mojave during WWDC indicate how cross-platform apps might look like.

With a year-to-year growth of 30%  from 2017 to 2018 in consumer spendings on mobile application stores combined, an industry report by App Annie suggest an estimated growth of 13.9 % from 2017-2022 with speedings of $ 156.47 billion worldwide in 2022. In 2018 alone, the report expects spendings of $ 53 billion on the iOS App Store with China, USA, Japan, South Korea and Germany ranking top 5 by consumer spendings. Also, despite Android outperforming the iOS ecosystem in terms of downloads, iOS is still responsible for 2x as much revenues, unquestionably remaining the most profitable ecosystem. So it’s save to say, the app economy will remain strong for the foreseeable future.


DISCLAIMER: In 2017/2018 I was part of the master class at the Apple Developer Academy, the first program of its kind worldwide with a select group of around 30 people. The Apple Developer Academy is a collaboration between the University of Naples Federico II and Apple Inc. Utilising Challenge-based learning (CBL) as a methodology framework, the program focusses on software engineering, design and business creation with an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and technology driven creativity.

Generative Art Created By Your Heart Beat With heart/work iOS App

heart/work iOS app generates original interactive artworks based on unique health information and real time workout data collected on the Apple Watch. Bridging the gap between wellbeing and health data, heart/work creates a new type of data visualisation. It uses meditative breathing exercises, real time heartbeat data and environmental information.

The app was developed by a group of students during one of the many challenges at the Apple Developer Academy in Napoli, Italy. It is available for free on the Apple iTunes App Store with In-App-Purchase premium features.

heart/work icon


Why Generative Art?

Health is not a number. Anyone should be able to easily understand the insights hidden in quantified self data sets. In-depth understanding of medical and biometric data is very complicated. No matter how beautiful charts and numbers are presented, people still have to know which graph should have an upward or downward trajectory and what certain numbers mean in relation to others. Most prominently, the activity rings on the Apple Watch are often referred to as the most engaging activity tracker.  Still, despite providing relevant and most salient information, the rings are limited for an overall perception of wellbeing.

health data vs. wellbeing

With this reference in mind and a rapidly growing global market for mindfulness and meditation apps, heart/work attempts to take a more data driven approach to mediation, while providing a different, more visual and exploratory experience. As the only app on the iOS platform, heart/work is taking heart rate data recorded in real-time on the Apple Watch into account to measure the progression through a guided breathing exercise. The goal is to lower the heart rate during the session, which is claimed to improve the heart rate variability (HRV) and considered to be beneficial to overall health and the ability to deal with everyday stress.

The team developed a visual language to translate the recorded health and exercise data into interactive graphic scenes where visual elements, shapes and colour represent distinct insights derived from the data. These generative artworks are created by the data and human behaviour and provides an immersive and highly personal experience.

heart/work - approach


Using heart/work

The heart/work app’s highly intuitive and user friendly interface design focuses entirely on the breathing exercise, while all required information are collected and computed in background. The strong focus on a meaningful user experience combined with a thoughtful user guide and the immersive artworks created by the app’s algorithms positions heart/work far beyond the many applications in the wellbeing scenario. Every new exercise creates a new and totally unique representation of health and wellbeing.

 

In the unexplored space of generative artwork within the health context, heart/work provides a toolset for both meditation veterans as well as skeptics and novices. It successfully bridges the gap between the perception of wellbeing and health data by translating the information into a visually appealing artwork that is suited to raise awareness for everyone.

To see the immersive and interactive artworks created by heart/work, try the free app yourself. It requires and Apple Watch and access to your HealthKit information as well as location information to work. No personal data is ever stored outside the app.


Created With Love At The Apple Developer Academy

heart/work was created by a group of fellow students (Marco Falanga, Ottavio Gelone, Baldev Ghelani, Giselle Katics, Mikey T. Krieger) and myself during one of the various challenges during the master class at Apple Developer Academy 2017/2018 in Napoli, Italy. It’s totally unique and original visual language for transitionary state of health and wellbeing data fuels an engine for generative artwork that is truly one of its kind. For more information about the app itself, the data it gathers or some of the media coverage visit heartwork.app.

heartwork.app team

Noise Pollution Made Visible With NoiseGate iOS App

Something to try: NoiseGate is the only iOS application that focuses exclusively on the dangerous impact of noise pollution on health and mental wellbeing. The app was developed by a group of master class students during one of the many challenges at the Apple Developer Academy in Napoli, Italy, and is available for free on the Apple iTunes App Store as the first app published in the 2017/2018 academy alumni. 

noisegate.co


Why Noise Pollution?

To date, noise pollution is one of the most dangerous forms of pollution because it is silent. Most sounds around us are random or unpleasant. That’s why we call it noise and we tend to ignore them. As a recent review published in the European Heart Journal pointed out, the role of noise as an environmental pollutant and its impact on health are increasingly recognized.

Beyond its effects on the auditory system, noise causes discomfort, disturbs sleep and compromises cognitive performance. Furthermore, evidence from epidemiological studies show that environmental noise is associated with an increased incidence of arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke.

The victims of this form of pollution is practically anyone in any urban environment in the world. The NoiseGate app allows users to be more aware of their noise exposure and to contribute to a better understanding of noise pollution as a common problem.

Users can measure and calculate the actual noise level in their current position and obtain further analysis to make better decisions on how to avoid high noise levels over time. Simultaneously, all users contribute as “citizen scientists” to the creation of a global map of noise level distribution.

noisegate.co - be aware and escape the noise


Using NoiseGate

With an intuitive design and a user friendly interface, it is very easy to analyze the noise level in real time or dig deeper into the knowledge of the problem thanks to the thermal noise maps that allows to view the distribution of noise all over the world. The strong focus on a simple but meaningful user experience, combined with a colorblind-proof design pushes the app far beyond the many applications in the utility and health categories.

In addition, NoiseGate is the “first mover” app in an unexplored segment of the iOS ecosystem that provides a toolset for solving an individual issue and translating it into an awareness community.

 


Created With Love At The Apple Developer Academy 

NoiseGate was created by a group of fellow master class students (Lucas Assis Rodrigues, Rany Azevedo, Maddalena Granata, Giovanni Monaco, Giselle Katics) and myself during one of the various challenges during the master class at Apple Developer Academy 2017/2018 in Napoli, Italy. For more information about the app itself, the data it gathers or some of the media coverage visit noisegate.co.

noisegate.co - team

Research on Policy Making vs. Policy Research published

Building on research I have done in 2016 at UNSW Business School in Sydney, Australia, my case study about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sydney and the regional government’s policy initiatives to nurture the high-growth startup economy has been published as a chapter in the book “Economic Gardening – Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Small Business Ecosystems in Regional, Rural and International Development” as part of their SEAANZ Research Book Series.

economic gardening
economic gardening

The case study was first presented as a peer reviewed article at ACERE Conference (Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research Exchange) in Melbourne, Australia, in February 2017 and analyses the City of Sydney’s Tech Startup Action Plan a comprehensive document created in collaboration with entrepreneurial ecosystem stakeholders as well as industry consulting entities over a period of at least 5 years. The plan was adopted by Council in June 2016 and builds on premises such as links between entrepreneurship and economic growth:

“Encouraging tech startups will create more jobs, boost Sydney’s economy, strengthen global connections and make the city a more desirable place to live, work and visit. Our tech startups action plan details how we will work with industry and government partners to create an environment that enables technology entrepreneurs to start and grow successful global businesses.”

Source: City of Sydney – Tech Startups

The updated and final version of the paper was now published as “Policy Making Versus Policy Research: The Case of the City of Sydney’s Tech Startups Action Plan” and is also available on Researchgate.

Impression from Naples, Italy

Since October 2017 I am living in Naples, Italy. Located on the Amalfi coast and close to active volcano Vesuvius, Napoli certainly is unique. As I am adapting to the Neapolitan lifestyle, I am feeling more and more at home in this vibrant city that has been around since the second millennium BC. I actually live close to many references to the first port greek sailors from Rhodes established here, called Parthenope.


Christmas is also kind of special around here. Being very traditional, the region excels at decorating the town. Christmas lightings alone are a reason to visit neighbouring cities like Salerno on the Amalfi coast.

Sushi Guide – Sushi Restaurant Reviews

The last time I went to Sushi Ran in Sausalito, I found it more difficult than before to translate Japanese sushi terms on the menu into plain English (or German). Although I spent quite some time at sushi restaurants over the years, I am challenged from time to time by the terminology. So I decided to create my own little Sushi Guide to help me out.

Sushi Guide - Overview Map

Over the past few weeks I experimented with chat bot solutions and developed a Sushi Guide Chat Bot in Facebook Messenger to help people translate sushi terms in real time and to provide additional information about the dish if available (It’s still in beta but drop me a direct message if you interested in checking it out).

As usual, one thing led to another and I started looking through some of my restaurant reviews on this site and all the photos I took during sushi restaurant visits all over the world. So I decided to build a companion website, called sushiguide.me, where I will put all of my sushi restaurant reviews in the future. Also I already collaborated with some fellow sushi aficionados and their reviews with be incorporated as well.


Sushi Guide Features

The website provides an overview map with locations of the sushi restaurants I went to over the years and allows the user to drill down and explore the map. Each pin represents a sushi restaurant and provides address information as well as a link to reviews of the restaurant. Since there are sushi places I or my fellow sushi guide team members have visited quite often, there might be several reviews of one particular restaurant.

The reviews contain a general description of the restaurant, information about the menu options and details about the dishes I ordered during the visit with high resolution photos and both Japanese and English terms for the fish. Also each review will incorporate a review score with the categories atmosphere, menu options, food quality, drink variety and service. This rating scheme might evolve over time, but I think it is a good start.

Sushi Guide - Rating Scheme
Sushi Guide – Rating Scheme

The website will entails a searchable sushi term glossary with translations of Japanese sushi terms in to plain English. The glossary will be kept as up to date as possible and will definitely include everything I came across over the years. The terms in this glossary will of course be integrated into the Sushi Guide Chat Bot.


So if you are into sushi or care about my approach of reviewing restaurants, check out sushiguide.me, join me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and let me know what you think.

I just moved to Naples, Italy

Napoli - view from castel sant' elmo
Napoli – view from castel sant’ elmo

Since the beginning of October 2017, I have been living in Naples, Italy, with my girlfriend. Many people say Rome is Italy’s heart and Napoli is its soul, so I will report back on that. While joining the Apple Developer Academy Master Class, continuing my PhD research and working on some projects remotely, we plan to travel around Campania and the Amalfi coast to make the most out of the trip.

So far I can attest to the many reports of Napoli being busy, loud and somewhat messy while being unique, picturesque and enjoyable at the same time. With sunny days and temperatures around 25° Celsius it is a quite nice place to be in October. As I expect the winter to be pretty mild, I am looking forward to an unique experience over the next few months.

Also, I am pretty sure that I have never eaten any tomatoes quite like those to be found around here. They are called “Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio” or just Pomodorino Vesuviano, are available at almost every shop one can go to and are just awesome.

Over the next few weeks, I will report back with some more impressions from the Amalfi coast and the area of Campania and might elaborate a little on why I joined the Apple Developer Academy.

Virtual Drumming with Freedrum

I recently received the Freedrum virtual drumming kit, which was one of the most interesting kickstarter campaigns over the last few years for me personally. I was supposed to get it for my birthday and have been waiting for quite some time to try it out.

freedrum


Freedrum sensors as MIDI controlers

Basically Freedrum created motion sensors with bluetooth connectivity that can be attached to drum sticks as well as shoes for tracking hand and foot movement. The sensors are connected via bluetooth to a mobile device, an iPhone 7 in my case. With the corresponding iOS app the sensors can be calibrated and allocated to right and left hand as well as right and left foot. One might also use the Android app, the Windows 10 or the MacOS app instead.

The connected sensors can then be used to control a MIDI instrument in apps such as Garage Band, Logic X Pro, Ableton Live 9, DM1 Drum Machine, Groovebox etc. and utilised to play virtual drum sets. For people traveling a lot this might be a good option to keep on grooving on the road. Although Freedrum advertises the sensors in live band situations, I somewhat doubt that this will be a dominant usage for the devices. Since I am living in an apartment with no option to play a analog or electronic drum set, the sensors are a nice option to keep practising.

Although I was pretty excited in the beginning, the sensors lack functionality and the software still seems to be pretty beta. I am willing to wait a few more months for updates and keep you updated. Until then, you might want to check them out for yourself… In any case, it is an awesome idea.